The Comfort of Others by Kay Langdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Minnie and her sister Clara, spinsters both, live in a dilapidated country house in the middle of a housing estate, built when their father sold off the family's land. Now in their seventies, their days follow a well-established routine: long gone are the garden parties, the tennis lessons and their suffocatingly strict mother. Gone, too, is any mention of what happened when Minnie was sixteen, and the secret the family buried in the grounds of their estate.
Directly opposite them lives Max, an 11-year-old whose life with his mum has changed beyond recognition since her new boyfriend arrived. Cast aside, he takes solace in Minnie's careful routine, observed through his bedroom window.
Over the course of the summer, both begin to tell their stories: Max through a Dictaphone, Minnie through a diary. As their tales intertwine, ghosts are put to rest and challenges faced, in a story that is as dark as it is uplifting.
An unlikely friendship develops between Millie a 70 year old woman and Max an 11 year old boy one summer that helps each one to come to terms with events that have shaped their lives. Max is given a dictaphone for his birthday and starts to record everything that happens to him that summer. It coincides with his mother is asked out on a date bu the boiler man and from that point he becomes something of a fixture in Max's life and not one he is happy about. No longer the focus of his mothers' attention and having to put up with this new man in her life who is less than kind to him he finds solace in sharing his thoughts and feelings on his dictaphone and eventually the old lady across the street.
Millie lives in the house opposite on the same estate and when she was a young girl her family once owned all the land the estate is built on. Living with her sister Clara all she has is her memories and routines hardly ever venturing outside. Millie notices Max from her window recording his days events and she decides to do the same in a diary. The journey for her is both cathartic and painful and eventually when Max and Millie meet they share confidences which make them both stronger.
It is sometimes a difficult read in that it has incredibly sad and poignant events but a feel good factor in their friendship keeps the book moving along nicely. It was nice to see how the author managed to make a connection with the young and old to develop a friendship that developed into a strong bond between the two.
Not my usual read but it was well thought out and executed and although a bit sad it was nicely done if the ending was a bit flat. I would give this a 4 star rating for its' subject matter and managing to bridge the gap between generations so well.
I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.